Education

Jesuits release names of 11 priests accused of abuse in Sacramento area

‘The letter was stupid and naive.’ Bishop Soto’s regret for supporting convicted priest

In 1986, then-auxiliary bishop Jaime Soto wrote a letter of support for his former classmate Chris Andersen after he was convicted on 26 felony counts of child molestation. Now, as bishop of the Sacramento Diocese, Soto talks about his regrets.
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In 1986, then-auxiliary bishop Jaime Soto wrote a letter of support for his former classmate Chris Andersen after he was convicted on 26 felony counts of child molestation. Now, as bishop of the Sacramento Diocese, Soto talks about his regrets.

The Jesuit West Province, a Roman Catholic order that represents states across the west coast, released a list of priests Friday who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse since 1950.

The list includes 11 local priests who were assigned to live or work at Jesuit High School in Carmichael, St. Ignatius of Loyola in Sacramento, or St. Elizabeth’s Church in Sacramento.

“Jesuit West has both a zero-tolerance policy for credible claims made against a Jesuit involving a minor or a vulnerable adult and stringent procedures to ensure their safety. No Jesuit who has a credible claim of sexually abusing a minor or vulnerable adult is allowed to remain in public ministry,” read a statement accompanying the release.

While many of the cases date back decades, others are more recent and involve positions with direct contact with minors — including six priests assigned to Jesuit High School, an all-boys school of around 1,100 students, and one who lived at a facility on the campus. One priest, Charles J. Onorato, was assigned there until 2003 — the most recent date any member of the list was actively involved in the Sacramento region.

The school is among the most prestigious high schools in Northern California and its alumni include television actors, professional athletes, Olympic swimmers and military generals.

In a letter sent to the community, Jesuit High School president Reverend John P. McGarry said he hoped “this act of accountability and reconciliation will help victims and their families in the healing process. The Province, and all Jesuits, continue to seek forgiveness from all those who have been hurt by this profound betrayal of pastoral care.”

Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the Sacramento Catholic Diocese, said it had received the list and would review the names and check them against their records. He said the diocese will be releasing their own list of priests with credible sexual abuse allegations against them in the spring.

The list from the Sacramento diocese was originally set to be released this year, but Bishop Jaime Soto said in October said the diocese had too many files to go through and decided to hire an outside consultant to help, delaying the effort. Soto said the diocese planned to hire former FBI agent Kathleen McChesney, a consultant who has worked with other dioceses to do similar reviews, to conduct its search of records.

In a prepared statement, Soto said the Diocese’s forthcoming list will incorporate the information shared by the Jesuit West Province.

“Regardless of where a priest may have been assigned in the diocese, families in our parishes and schools placed trust in him. The actions described in the list released today represent profound, terrible betrayals of that trust. The evil of sex abuse has caused lasting pain for the victims, and damaged the trust placed in clergy and bishops,” Soto said.

The names and charges released Friday include:

  • Arthur A. Falvey, accused of sexual abuse of a minor at an unknown date. He served at St. Ignatius of Loyola from 1955-1961, then at Jesuit High School from 1964-1965. They were his 12th and 14th assignments of 15. He died Feb. 23, 1966.

  • William C. Farrington, accused of sexual abuse of a minor from 1963-1970, 1973-1975 and 1981-1986. He served at Jesuit High School from 1976-1987. It was his third assignment of five. He was removed from ministry.
  • Gunter Klingenbrunner, accused of sexual abuse of a minor from 1981-1984. He served at Jesuit High School from 1984-1985. It was his first assignment of two. He was dismissed on Jan. 9, 1986.
  • Angelo C. Mariano, accused of sexual abuse of a minor from 1977-1982. He served at St. Ignatius of Loyola from 1992-1993. It was his second assignment of four. He was dismissed on Nov. 25, 2002.
  • James T. Monaghan, accused of sexual abuse of a minor from 1988-1989. He served at St. Ignatius of Loyola from 1962-1963 and from 1975-1992. They were his seventh and 10th assignments of 11. He died on Oct. 18, 2004.
  • Charles J. Onorato, accused of sexual abuse of a minor in 1980. He served at Jesuit High School from 1970-1980, then from 1987-2003. They were his third and fifth assignments of six. He was removed from ministry.
  • Jose Ribeiro, accused of sexual abuse of a minor at an unknown date. He served at St. Elizabeth’s Church from 1982-1991. It was his second assignment of three. He was dismissed at an unknown date and returned to his native Portugal.

  • Stephen E. Speciale, accused of sexual abuse of a minor at an unknown date. He served at Jesuit High School from 1979-1982. It was his first assignment of four. He was dismissed on Dec. 18, 1989.
  • Philip Sunseri, accused of sexual abuse of a minor in 1986. He served at Jesuit High School from 1973-1975. It was his first assignment of four. He was dismissed on May 13, 1988.
  • Carlton E. Whitten, accused of sexual abuse of a minor in 2008. He served at Jesuit High School from 1963-1965, then 1980-1987 and again from 1990-1999. They were his fourth, eighth, and 10th assignments of 15. He was removed from ministry.
  • William J. Wood, accused of sexual abuse of a minor in 2002. He lived in the Jesuit community residence at Jesuit High School from 1984-1991 while working at the California Catholic Conference. It was his ninth assignment of 15. He was removed from ministry in 2002 and died on June 29, 2014.

The Sacramento Bee has previously written about three of the accused priests.

William Farrington, a former teacher and coach at Jesuit from 1976 to 1987, was accused of sexual abuse of a minor during three separate time periods, including from 1981 to 1986, when he was at Jesuit High School in Carmichael. The accusations against Farrington were first made public in a 2012 email to Jesuit alumni sent by the school that accused him of “inappropriate conduct with a student,” as reported by The Bee.

Two Jesuit students came forward with accusations against Farrington in 1987, school officials said. He was removed from campus and barred from working with minors, a school spokesman said in 2012. Farrington was transferred to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he took a position in the school registrar’s office.

Farrington, McGarry said, now lives under a supervised safety plan in a Jesuit community in a role that does not serve minors.

The accusations against Arthur Falvey were also previously known. The Jesuit religious order paid Will Green a $100,000 settlement in 2009 after Green said he had been repeatedly raped from 1954-58 by Falvey, who died in 1966. Green was seven years old when the abuse reportedly began and said he turned to the priest for support in dealing with his polio, according to The Bee’s archives.

In 1993, James Monaghan pleaded no contest to molesting a seven-year-old girl in Sacramento in 1988. He was sentenced to 120 hours of community service and five years probation for the assault after a court psychologist determined the behavior was “isolated and out of character for him,” according to Bee archives.

Others on the list have faced criminal prosecution or civil court sanctions in other jurisdictions, or been named in media.

A 2004 lawsuit accused Stephen Speciale of sexually abusing an 11-year-old during the 1980s at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Santa Barbara, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Angelo Mariano was convicted in 1998 of two counts of oral copulation with a minor he had met while posing as a woman on an internet chatroom, the Los Angeles Times reported. He served five months in Santa Clara County Jail before being released to the Jesuits’ Los Gatos facility.

Carlton Whitten was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 2008 while at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. He taught at Jesuit High from 1963-65, 1980-87 and 1990-99 before being removed from the ministry as part of its safety plan in 2008, according to the list.

Whitten was removed after being accused of inappropriate sexual contact with a minor while on a pastoral assignment in Washington state, the Mercury News reported. He had been semi-retired and living at Bellarmine at the time.

Philip Sunseri, who worked at Jesuit High from 1973-75, was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1986 while in the Bronx. He was transferred to Holy Family Church in San Jose for the next two years until being dismissed.

Sunseri told Bay Area media earlier this year that he had given two high school boys non-sexual back massages. An accuser then came forward to say that they had simultaneously massaged each other while wearing nothing but underwear before falling asleep.

Some names on the list appear to be newly-public allegations.

Gunter Klingenbrunner, another former Jesuit faculty member, was accused of sexually abusing a minor from 1981-1984, according to the information released Friday. He worked at Jesuit High from 1984-85 and was transferred to the University of San Francisco before being dismissed in 1986.

William J. Wood was accused of sexually abusing a minor at Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles in 2002 after a stint in residence at Jesuit High School between 1984-1991. He was transferred back to Los Gatos before being sent back to Los Angeles to work at the Colombière House there for four years. Wood then returned to the Los Gatos in 2008 and stayed there until his death in 2014.

Charles J. Onorato is another priest who worked at Jesuit High School from 1970 until 1980, when he was accused of sexually abusing a minor. He then left for Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose before returning to Jesuit in 1987, and worked there until 2003, when he was relocated to Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos before being removed from the ministry.

Onorato was an art teacher who volunteered at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital two to three times per week after retirement, according to The Bee’s archives. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War before a pair of Jesuit priests at Travis Air Force convinced him to join the clergy, and was inducted into Jesuit High School’s Hall of Fame in 1987.

McGarry asks that anyone who may have been abused by a Jesuit to contact law enforcement and the advocacy coordinator for the Jesuits West Province, Mary Pat Panighetti, at 408-893-8398.

Susie McClernon of Kansas City is dealing the trauma of learning about the sexual abuse her youngest brother and many others have accused a beloved priest, Bishop Joseph Hart, of perpetrating. She remains a faithful Catholic.

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